Board Discusses Future of Boulevards,
By Anita Varghese
August 24 -- The future
of Santa Monica’s boulevards
Downtown and how best to tackle traffic
congestion were the key topics taken
up by the Bayside Board Thursday night.
The discussion is part of a Citywide public process
to gather input that will be used to update the
city’s Land Use and Circulation Elements
(LUCE), which will dictate how Santa Monica is
developed and how people will get around for the
next quarter century.
“The whole goal here is very
simple -- to get people in a dialogue
where the city can have change, but
this change doesn’t need to
have a negative impact,” said
Eileen Fogarty, the City’s planning
“Rather than just saying we are going to
support or deny a development project based on
traffic, let’s get people to think of alternative
ways of moving people around the city.”
Issues to be studied include the pros and cons
of positioning retail uses near mixed-use housing,
the differences in parking situations in single-family
neighborhoods and near robust shopping corridors,
the character of Santa Monica’s heavily
traveled boulevards and the possibility of a light
rail station in Downtown.
Some specific traffic issues being studied Downtown
are traffic on Pico and Ocean Park boulevards,
parking in the Wilshire-Montana area and traffic
and parking along major business corridors in
or near the heart of the city.
Also in the spotlight are methods of efficiently
getting employees to and from their jobs at major
work sites such as Santa Monica College, Sony,
Yahoo!, businesses in the Water Garden, Saint
Johns Health Center and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical
Center as well as smaller businesses in the arts
and entertainment industries.
“We have a phenomenal public transit resource
in the Big Blue Bus,” said Bayside board
member John Warfel. “We have seen it here
in the Mini Bus routes, which is certainly well
done, and I hope it takes off.”
The figure of 88,000 used to define Santa Monica’s
population is a “false statistic,”
Warfel said, because there is a huge difference
between the daytime and evening populations.
While the number of residents may not have changed
much since the last general plan update a quarter
century ago, the number of people who work in
Santa Monica during the day has exploded, Warfel
Most cities in the United States have to deal
with this shift in daytime population, Warfel
said, but Santa Monica has an opportunity to help
people move around the city once they arrive.
Bayside officials don’t support plans to
curb the number of visitors by failing to provide
more parking. Instead, they are focusing on initiatives
that include using shuttles to move workers and
visitors to and from parking structures.
“I think people here sometimes take for
granted the traffic they have, which has been
pretty good over the last ten years,” said
Bayside Board member Rob Rader. “If they
want to see really bad traffic, go check out what
is in Hollywood.
“We are one of the densest areas in Southern
California,” said Rader, who is also a member
of the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees.
“Perhaps we could de-densify a bit and create
the green space that we talk about so often.”
There are no efforts to increase Santa Monica’s
density, Fogarty said, responding to concerns
expressed by some residents who believe the City
is approving too much development and should place
a moratorium on new construction until the LUCE
process is completed.
What City staff is doing, Fogarty said, is looking
at how to put appropriate land use and circulation
elements in strategic locations in the city such
as near workforce housing.
“The LUCE update has got to be something
we can get broad-based community support for because,
long after all of these professionals have retired
from their City jobs, we are going to need a community
of Santa Monica residents to stay committed to
the plans,” Fogarty said.
City staff is preparing to schedule
two October workshops -- one on citywide
circulation, the other on the "Industrial
Lands" -- and housing and economic
development workshops in November